The nice thing about typos is there’s usually someone to blame, someone you can confront in a finger-wagging huff or a full-blown rage, someone who can reluctantly receive your shouted list of synonyms for “idiot,” which rightly includes their name.
Unless, of course, you’re to blame. Ahem.
Then, after a brief period of cringing at your own stupidity, you begin to rationalize, quickly asserting to yourself and all who will hear you that there’s never been a perfect book, anyway.
“Damndest thing, but these things happen to the best of writers,” you’ll say with a chuckle and a dismissive waive before quickly changing the subject. “So, why do you suppose they changed ‘prunes’ to ‘dried plums?’”
And then there’s the eerie, preternatural thing about typos. They always seem to be discovered by the person you’d LEAST like to discover them. Usually, this is your boss or your boss’s boss or, more likely, the chairman of the board, who blithely opens up the book at random to see his name misspelled in a way that suggests morally bad choices in three different languages. You will know when this happens by the look on your boss’s face when he appears in your doorway and says, “We’ve got to talk.”
But the worst, the absolute worst kind of typo is the kind created by technology, either by what is known in technical terms as a “glitch” or by badly reasoned programming. Although most of the resulting word jumbles can be spotted during the early stages of proofing, some are sneaky little bastards.
Case in point, the word “manslaughter,” which with the help of a squirrely hyphenation program can be turned into mans-
laughter and create sentences that can best be described as unfortunate.